More information about Lebanon is available on the Lebanon Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
Lebanon’s history since independence in 1943 has been marked by periods of political turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on its position as a regional center for finance and trade. The country’s 1975-90 civil war was followed by years of social and political instability. Sectarianism is a key element of Lebanese political life. Neighboring Syria long influenced Lebanon’s foreign policy and internal policies, and its military forces were in Lebanon from 1976 until 2005. After the Syrian military withdrew, the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hizballah and Israel continued to engage in attacks and counterattacks against each other, fighting a brief war in 2006 and engaging in cross-border skirmishes in 2019 and 2020. Lebanon’s borders with both Syria and Israel are still to be resolved.
The United States seeks to help Lebanon preserve its independence, sovereignty, national unity, stability, and territorial integrity. The United States, along with the international community, supports full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1559, 1680, and 1701, including the disarming of all militias, the delineation of the Lebanese-Syrian border, and the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) throughout Lebanon. The United States believes that a peaceful, prosperous, and stable Lebanon can make an important contribution to comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
U.S. Assistance to Lebanon
Since 2010, the United States has provided more than $4 billion total in foreign assistance to Lebanon.
Specifically, the United States has provided more than $2 billion in assistance since 2010 to address both economic support and security needs. This assistance aims to strengthen strategic partners such as Lebanon’s security forces; ensure key services reach the Lebanese people; preserve the multi-sectarian character of Lebanon; and counter Hizballah’s narrative and influence. Support for Lebanon’s security agencies and other strategic partners remains at the core of our efforts to preserve stability while countering and delegitimizing Hizballah’s false narrative and justification for retaining its arms in Lebanon and in the region.
Economic Support Funding (ESF) to Lebanon since 2010 totaled nearly $1 billion and has supported programs that promote economic growth, workforce employability and productivity, good governance, and social cohesion. This assistance has also supported access to clean water and improved education services to Lebanese communities, especially those deeply affected by the influx of Syrian refugees. Included in this amount is nearly $210 million in basic education programs and over $150 million in higher education programs in Lebanon, supporting access for over 1,170 Lebanese and refugee students from disadvantaged backgrounds to top ranking Lebanese universities, including the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University.
The United States is Lebanon’s primary security partner and has provided more than $2 billion in bilateral security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) since 2006. U.S. assistance supports the LAF’s ability to secure Lebanon’s borders, counter internal threats, and demonstrate it is the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon’s sovereignty. Through the provision of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, munitions, vehicles, and associated training, the LAF has become a committed partner and greatly increased its capability as a fighting force against violent extremists. Our investment in training and equipping the LAF has paid outsized dividends for U.S. interests in Lebanon and the region by enabling the Lebanese military to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Lebanon, carry out operations against Al Qaeda, and reassert control over Lebanese territory along its border with Syria. U.S. security assistance has included more than $235 million in civilian security assistance since 2011. This assistance has enhanced the capabilities and professionalism of security institutions, among them the Internal Security Forces (ISF), as they work to prevent, counter, and respond to criminal and terrorist threats and their underlying causes, to secure and safeguard Lebanon’s territory and people, to interdict items of proliferation concern, and to extend rule of law throughout the country.
The United States has also provided more than $2.3 billion in humanitarian assistance in Lebanon since the start of the Syria crisis. Lebanon hosts the second-highest per capita number of refugees in the world, and the second-highest total number of Syrian refugees in the world. There are approximately 880,000 Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and nearly 27,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). There are approximately 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon but the actual number is unknown as registration of Syrian refugees was suspended in 2015. There are also approximately 475,000 longstanding Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations, and approximately 18,000 Iraqi and other refugees residing in Lebanon. Since the start of the Syria crisis, U.S. humanitarian assistance in Lebanon has met a range of critical needs of Syrian refugees and host communities, including food, shelter, medical care, clean water and sanitation, education, and psychosocial support.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Lebanon has historically been a free-market economy with a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition. Since the fall of 2019, however, Lebanon has been mired in an economic and financial crisis from which it has yet to recover. In March 2020, the government defaulted on $31 billion in eurobonds, dealing a significant blow to the country’s creditworthiness. As of August 2020, the government has yet to implement economic reforms necessary to reduce overall debt and put the country on a sound economic footing. In 2018, major U.S. exports to Lebanon were vehicles, mineral fuel and oil, products of chemical industries, machinery and electrical instruments, prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco, and vegetable products. The U.S. and Lebanon have signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to help promote an attractive investment climate, expand trade relations, and remove obstacles to trade and investment between the two countries. The United States does not have a bilateral investment treaty with Lebanon or an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation. The long-standing U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program allows Lebanon to export select products to the United States without paying duties or customs.
Lebanon’s Membership in International Organizations
Lebanon and the United States belong to several of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.
More information about Lebanon is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: